Vegetables have a lot of the micronutrients that keto and low carb diets are sometimes missing due to a reliance on protein and good fats. Vegetables don’t have to be relegated to salads and limp flavorless greens however. Learning to cook, blend and enhance vegetables can be a game-changer for adding some joy and flavor to your diet. This dish of meaty Romano beans and smashed cherry tomatoes is a perfect way to enjoy summer vegetables — easy and delicious!
Why aren’t vegetables a daily dish?
Why is it so difficult for most of us on a Low Carb diet to cook/make vegetables? I love the flavor of vegetables, but it is still hard for me to include them in daily meals! I think the challenge revolves around two obstacles:
- Having to think about it: Many of us grew up learning to cook with convenience foods (if we learned to cook at all). Grilling meat has been a mainstay in most households so it is easy to do without looking at a recipe. Making pasta is another one that doesn’t require a recipe. Vegetables….now that requires a bit of thought. How long do you cook them, what method, what spices to add, etc.? If you didn’t grow up cooking vegetables, it is likely that the idea is attractive but the thought of looking up a recipe when our lives are so busy is less appealing.
- Prep Time: Vegetables require washing and chopping. While this isn’t really difficult, it is another step in that already hectic dinner-time rush. Yet vegetables are very important to a healthy diet, whether your diet is low carb, high fat, or high protein. So, one of my goals this year has been to try and make cooking vegetables as easy and mindless as possible.
Why even include vegetables at all in a low-carb or keto diet?
Vegetables offer the micro-nutrients that you can’t always get from high protein or high fat diets. Getting a good repertoire of veggies under your belt will give you the micro-nutrients you need without resorting to fruit. Fruit can certainly be healthy (depending on what kind you are eating), but if you are interested in weight loss, fruit is considered “natures candy” and needs to be quite moderate.
The sugar in fruit (called fructose), can cause an insulin response in a very similar way of white processed sugar. Berries are a bit of an exception here. Best to save most fruit for cheat days and stick with the veggies……if you want to lose weight that is.
Easy ways to add vegetables into a low-carb diet plan:
The easiest way I have incorporated vegetables into my diet has been by adding fresh spinach to my morning smoothie. (Click here for the smoothie recipe).
Before I was hooked on smoothies I would often just microwave frozen spinach or broccoli for dinner and slather it with butter (sometimes adding a vinegar).
Frozen veggies can be a great time-saver. They are generally flash frozen and have their nutrients intact, sometimes more than the older “fresh” vegetables you might find on the grocery shelf.
Romano Beans & Cherry Tomatoes
Because it is summer and the farmers’ markets are so abundant with fresh, organic, inexpensive vegetables, I have tried to get a little more creative. Remembering a favorite dish I had a while back with Romano beans I decided to try and recreate something similar.
I did have a hard time finding the Romano beans as they are an Italian variety not common at our farmers’ markets or in the grocery store. Luckily I found an heirloom variety of the beans called Dragon’s Tongue.
With a focus on “easy”, I decided to take advantage of all the cherry tomatoes that were coming out my ears. I have the good fortune to live in the same area as Lynn Rosetta Casper, star of The Splendid Table on NPR.
She honors me every year by purchasing tomatoes from my farm booth at the St. Paul Farmers market and chatting with me about how she uses them. I’m always amazed at the varieties she selects and one day when the big slicers were gone she picked up a bunch of cherry tomatoes. She told me they’re actually quite good just mashed up and quickly made into a sauce.
I set to work and came up with the following dish. It was easy and really flavorful. I drizzled some of our HeathGlen Plum-Orange-Rosemary Shrub Syrup over it at the end to enhance it even further, but if you are being really strict on a low carb diet, the dish is quite good without the added syrup. Have to say however, the shrub syrup took it to new heights!
Without further ado, here is the recipe:
Romano & Cherry Tomato Mash-up
- Olive oil (a couple of tablespoons)
- 1 large red onion, sliced into thin slices
- a pound or so of Romano beans, snapped into bite size pieces
- a pint or so of mixed cherry tomatoes (I loved the Yellow Pear with this dish along with some red cherries)
- salt to taste
- a drizzle of plum shrub vinegar (could also use balsamic or any other vinegar or none!)
In a large skillet, heat up some olive oil over med-high heat. When oil is starting to get hot add the onion slices and cook over medium heat until caramelized (about 5 min.)
When onions are somewhat caramelized, add the beans and sauté with the onions for a few minutes (don’t burn them).
Add some water to cook the beans in to soften (I added about 1 1/2 cups but it depends on how many beans you have in your skillet – slightly cover them). Cook this mixture down until the water has almost evaporated and the beans are soft (about 5-7 min).
Add the cherry tomatoes and mash into the mixture with a potato masher or a fork. Cook until the mixture is heated through.
Season to your liking with salt and serve. If you are using a shrub vinegar or another vinegar, just drizzle some over the finished dish and go ah-h-h-h.